On Tuesday, April 3, 2018 our friend Rosemary Lane passed away at the age of 96. During World War II, Rosemary was the Head Nurse of the Emergency Room at the Oak Ridge Hospital.
She was born in a small town in Iowa and went to Chicago to pursue a degree in nursing at Loyola University. It was 1943 when Rosemary finished nursing school. She was considering joining the military when she was offered the opportunity to be Head Nurse of the Emergency Room for the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge.
Rosemary helped to set up the clinics at Oak Ridge, protocol, and treat patients. During her time at Oak Ridge, Rosemary treated General Leslie R. Groves for physical therapy. She recalled, “It was just applying some kind of a heat lamp because he had a bad shoulder. He had been traveling a lot. He was a very pleasant man—just big and kind of gruff looking, but very pleasant for about a half hour. So I did get to meet the General.”
Rosemary was still at Oak Ridge when she learned about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Oak Ridge’s role in the Manhattan Project. She explained, “They talked about this big mushroom cloud and that there were a lot of casualties. Nobody really knew the total for days of how awful the destruction was. It was a feeling of relief in many ways. The war was over. I had a brother who was in the service, lots of people and we all knew how hard it was to have the war continue to go on and on and on with so many people dying. But it was relief, in a way. Of course, you couldn’t help but feel sadness. Especially when women and children were involved, you felt, was it really necessary?...We had already lost so many, many people and would have lost many, many more had something not been done.”
In her interview, Rosemary fondly remembers the social outings and the many friends she made. Rosemary said of her experiences at Oak Ridge, “I probably wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have these children, because I met and married my husband at Oak Ridge. As far as my career, nursing is what I wanted to do and I did pursue it for the rest of that time.” After the war, Rosemary and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. where they raised their five children.
Rosemary is featured in Denise Kiernan’s book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. She also spoke at AHF’s events marking the 70th anniversary of the Manhattan Project in Washington, DC, in June 2015.
For more on Rosemary Lane, please see our 2014 interview.